Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Cook-ing Up Something Awesome

I’ve been a fan of Katie Cook for a long time now. My wife actually first saw her art on LiveJournal in a cat community and started reading her journal. She ordered some cat art way back before Smashy Adventures of the Hulk and skyrocketing sketch card popularity. I think it was Smashy…Hulk that really won me over as a fan because it was pretty hilarious. It was so good that a page of it eventually ended up in one of Marvel’s Avenger books.

Katie’s got a unique and very cool style where she “cute-ifies” the subjects that she draws and it seems to have struck a chord because people go ga-ga over her sketch cards. She’s also seen a steady increase in the amount of comic book work that she’s been doing and is also currently tackling writing chores on a project as well. I haven’t even mentioned her great webcomic Gronk yet. There’s just bucket loads of awesome coming from the mind, pen and brush of Katie Cook.

For those who may not remember, the three commissions that I had done for Boston Comic Con were from Stephanie Buscema and Katie Cook. I’ve already posted about the phenomenal Death painting that I got from Stephanie and now it is time to boast about the awesome art that I got from Katie.


First up is a Spider-Ham sketch card that is Spectacular, Amazing, Sensational, and Ultimate. Here’s Peter Porker in all of his glory. I think Katie did an awesome job of capturing him. Everything is there right down to the Spidey eyes on the end of the snout.

My Spider-Ham sketch card collection started back in 2010 when I spotted a Brian Kong sketch card at his table at the terrible Wizard World Boston convention. I figured that would be as good a character as any to get a bunch of sketch cards of. Well, as of right now “a bunch” equal two. I’ve got my eye on eBay, but if there were any Spider-Ham sketch cards in the Rittenhouse Spider-Man Archives set, they’ve found their way to other people’s collections.


The second piece is a custom 6”x6” painting that I commissioned of Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends. I loved this cartoon as a kid and it still holds up for me today. This was the first superhero cartoon that I remember having a ton of guest stars who were done well. Seven Little Superheroes featured guest appearances from Captain America, Doctor Strange, and Namor while another episode featured a ton of X-Men.

The cartoon was cheesy and it was campy and it was a lot of fun. Spidey has always been my favorite hero, Iceman was always a favorite amongst the X-Men and this version of Firestar seemed to be a lot more fun than the comic book version she would inspire. Infertility and cancer due to her powers? Not enough? May as well make her break off her relationship with Justice as well.

Brian Bendis did some fun stuff with an updated version of this trio in Ultimate Spider-Man and then took it one step further putting together the trio that was originally supposed to star in the 80s cartoon: Spidey, Iceman and the Human Torch. I’m such a Bendis fanboy to being with and this run had me in comic nerd heaven.

There you have it, my 2012 Boston Comic Con commissions. Looking back, I love these three pieces of art so much more than anything else that I could have purchased at the convention. Getting to meet and chat with Katie was a treat as well and I’ll always remember Stephanie Buscema inviting my daughter behind her table to watch her paint. The fact that these two ladies are great people makes it so much easier to support their amazing talents.

Thanks for checking out my non-sport divergence. Other than getting back in track with sports card posts, I want to put together a post highlighting my growing art print collection. Don’t worry, there is some sports related content that will be contained in that post.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Walk-off Spare

One of the things that I love about living in the Boston area is candlepin bowling. Imagine that they took ten pin bowling and made it challenging and you’d have candlepin bowling. I kid. There are some interesting differences between the two, but I’m not going to get into that now. One of the things that I love about bowling is that it’s a social sport. Bowling is like golf where you aren’t really playing against other people. There’s no defense. You’re playing against yourself as is everyone else. Whoever performs the best is the one who will win.

The great thing about bowling is that everyone roots for everyone else no matter what team you are on. If someone on the opposing team makes a great shot then you congratulate them on it and then you try and make one of your own. Tonight’s final game saw us up by a few pins when I got up to bowl my final frames. The guy that I was bowling against had been whining all night as our team destroyed his. Things were close until the 9th frame when I put a 5 box which allowed the other team to pull into the lead by 2 pins. The joker on the other team made the mistake of me catching him celebrating my bad box. That was it, there’s no way that this douchebag was winning the string.

He threw first and put the ball right in the pocket and dropped 9 pins leaving an easy spare leave. My first ball caught the 3 pin right in the middle and chopped straight through getting only 2 pins (called a Half Worcester). That’s one of the major difference between candlepin and ten pin bowling. You can put the ball in the middle of the pins and end up with only 1 or two of them. Try doing that with a gigantic ball and fat pins.

DB converts his spare all but sealing the game for his team. I step up, still steaming a little bit and throw the perfect shot. It looks a little something like this: (Ignore the fact that the bowler in this video throws a gutter ball on their first shot)

That shot drew cheers from my team and some people on neighboring lanes who were watching. So, the whole string now came down to one bonus ball for each of us with the other team up by 2 pins. He filled his spare with 6 pins which put me in a tough spot especially since I wasn’t having much luck with my first balls in that final string. I stepped up and got a huge 9 pin drop to take the string by a pin. That got an even bigger cheer. Walk-off spare!

Here’s a couple of fun candlepin videos to further demonstrate some of the differences between the two types of bowling:

Things will definitely bounce around the alley.

Fallen pins, or wood, are not cleared from the alley between throws. This can be a good thing or a bad thing.

Since the pins are flat on the top and bottom, it's possible that something like this could happen, but it's extremely rare.

Pins that roll over to knock another pin down are called messengers. Sometimes that'll allow you to make great shots.

Sometimes you'll even get some ridiculous shots like this. Again, this is pretty rare. If any of you ever come to Boston for a Fenway trip or something like that and want to check out candlepin bowling, let me know and a string or two will be on me. (Fun Fact: There used to be a candlepin bowling alley under Fenway Park. It closed around 2004 and wood from the lanes was used for the bar up on the Right Field Patio behind the roof deck tables.)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Box Break: 2011-12 Panini Past & Present Basketball

I love basketball. I started watching sports in the 80s when Bird, Parish and McHale were bringing 3 NBA Championships to Boston. I’ve remained a huge Celtics fans through the terrible teams when the Celtics tanked and had the worst record in the league and got to see three classy veterans unite to bring one more title to Boston. Lately, my NBA fandom has died down a little bit. I went from spending the most money on basketball cards when Topps and Upper Deck were in the game to buying just one box a year once Panini took over. Combine that with the horrible state of officiating in the NBA which takes fun out of watching the games and you’ve got an NBA fan on the decline. What’s worse is that you had the Heat come together in response to Pierce, Garnett and Allen teaming up and this year another superteam or two will be created to take on the Heat. Boring.

The frustrating thing about this hobby is that you can’t just give it up cold turkey. Your purchases might come less frequently, but you still make little purchases here and there even when times are tough. Panini had been talking of change on Twitter and in their blog and so I kept an eye on them. Not having any rookies at all in this year’s hoops releases made me lose interest, but that problem was semi-resolved with redemption cards. The cards that you get won’t be considered rookie cards, but the official rookie designation doesn’t really seem to matter to most collectors. They gravitate towards something early in the player’s career with a low print run and autograph to be a player’s most sought-after card. These cards could end up becoming the best cards for these players, but I have a feeling that the print runs won’t be all that low. I’m getting ahead of myself though.

I was intrigued by Panini’s Past & Present Basketball release. I had my eye on a box, but was waiting until the price fixing period ended so that I could get a box at a reasonable price. Unfortunately, the Father’s Day promotion fell right before the end of that time frame. I made the trek out to a card shop that was participating in the promotion to find out that they were closed…for Father’s Day. I completely understand that, but if you are participating in a Father’s Day promotion then you might want to be around for people to take advantage of that promotion. Luckily, Panini offered boxes on their site that you could purchase to get the special Father’s Day packs and I decided to go that route.

Quick tangent: I would highly advise against ordering from Panini’s online webstore unless you have no other option. First off, I paid for Priority Shipping, but my package was shipped FedEx Ground. It’s not just a speed thing, my local USPS delivery person is much better than their FedEx counterpart. I sent emails about the error with no reply, but luckily the Panini CSR Twitter account was able to assist. When I got the box, it was just the box of cards (in a thin plastic bag), my receipt and the 4 packs of Father’s Day cards. There were no air pouches or packing peanuts to be seen. $100 worth of trading cards and someone at Panini treated it like crap, threw it in a box and sent it off without a care. Now that they’ve improved their customer service, they really need to improve their shipping. I know things were probably busier than usual due to the promotion, but I would have rather had my package ship a day later with proper shipping materials than get this. There’s really no excuse for this. /tangent

On to the good stuff, the cards. I’ve always been a fan of retro and vintage looking sets. While Panini doesn’t have much of a history to draw from when it comes to basketball, they did attempt with this year’s Hoops set. I don’t know if it was just me, but it didn’t feel like a Hoops set at all. This set has base cards with a retro vibe and inserts straight out of 90s Fleer Ultra and Skybox.


The set composition is rather strange. The first 75 cards in the set have the design you see in the top row and are current players. Cards 101-175 have the design that you see in the second row and are also current player. The biggest starts show up in each design as you can see with the Jesus Shuttlesworth, Truth and Rondo cards. The Bird and Russell cards are from the run of veteran cards from 76-100. Cooz can be found in the second run of veteran cards spanning cards 176-200. I’m not a big fan of some players appearing twice unless there’s a good reason. This is Past & Present, give us cards of Ray Allen as a Sonic, KG as a Timberwolf, LeBron as a Cav, etc. That would have made more sense to me than cards that just seem there to inflate the size of the set and get people to buy more packs. I got 67.5% of the set in my box which is a little low. You’ve got to get at least 75% of the set out of a box for me to be happy. This set was a little large for the number of cards that you get per pack. I wonder if 10 cards per pack was feasible?

Set composition aside, I love the look of the cards. This is easily Panini’s strongest effort in a basketball release. These cards are beautiful, are printed on a nice, sturdy card stock and have an interesting gloss on them. It’s somewhere between a matte and a high gloss. There’s definitely a slick surface there, but it’s not like something you’d find on Stadium Club or Ultra cards. There are sticker auto variations of the base set, but at least they don’t seem to be the main autographs that you get out of boxes. Panini claims that they are moving away from this and I know it is something that collectors will welcome with open arms.


Speaking of retro, these cards are based on the 1950 Fischer's Bread for Health labels that came on loaves of bread. You can find a picture of a George Mikan label that sold for just over one thousand dollars here. Panini decided to change the dimensions on these to that of regular cards these days instead of keeping them square. I would have loved square, die-cut cards like the originals, but it wasn’t meant to be. Bread for Health and Bread for Energy are the common versions of these and the Bread for Life inserts come one per box. (Speaking of retro, remember when one per box meant something?)


Changing Times showcases stars in front of the type of basketball that they played with. Players such as Mikan and The Big O have a smooth basketball on their card while modern day players have the textured ball of today’s game. What makes this set phenomenal is that they don’t just stop there. The Julius Erving card? That card has the old ABA red, white and blue basketball on it as do the cards of George McGinnis and Dan Issel. I’ve gotten on Panini’s case for taking the cheap way out before, but they did anything but that with this insert set. The cards have different textures and designs and I love it.

The Breakout insert set is a little cheesy, but they do look good. The brick wall is textured and the result is a really nice looking card. These cards also have autograph parallels, but they also aren’t the main autographs that you would pull out of every box.

The Fireworks insert set is another great looking set and I’m bummed that I only got one card out of my box when the average is two. At least the card that I did pull was that of KG which will be going right into my collection. The player and the fire have a hologram-like design that moves as you tilt the card. These are really sharp looking cards.


The final insert set is Raining 3s. The graphic design department did a very nice job on these cards. The players have a liquid look to them and the cards are only glossy on the player which helps the colors on these cards to pop. These cards fall 2 per box on average, but I got an extra one in place of the Fireworks card that the averages say I should have gotten. All of the inserts from this set are cards that you want to hold on to rather than junky afterthoughts like many Panini inserts of the past.

The final card is a Tim Duncan SP variant. These fall one per box and are variations of 50 cards from the base set. Variants are so much better than short prints that are part of the set. I wish that this became the norm when companies try to add value to boxes because short prints in the main set take a lot of the fun out of collecting.


Hit Time!

From what I’ve seen, the majority of the autographs that come out of these boxes are from the Elusive Ink set. It’s a given in this day and age that you’ve got to have minor stars sign things if you want a chance at pulling autographs of big stars, especially in lower end products. ($100 is low end? Kill me now.) It’s always nice when the autographs have a theme and get autographs out there of players who don’t have a lot of autographed cards already. Sure, they may not have a ton of value, but they can be invaluable additions to player and team collections. I still can’t believe that Panini didn’t include Dee Brown in their Slam Dunk Contest insert set, but they did include him in the Elusive Ink set. I’ve only been able to track down one other autographed card from a Fleer set and that’s about it. I don’t think he has any jersey cards. (Are you listening Panini?)

Speaking of jersey cards, the only ones you’ll find are these Gamers. You won’t find floating swatches in the middle of the base cards. I love it. Jersey cards are a little played out, but these cards give you nice big swatches and a nice design. It’s different from the norm and again I have to compliment Panini on that. They also didn’t put a lame die-cut window in front of the swatch to try and make it 3 swatches. Thank you.

Last, but certainly not least since it was the best card in the box, is the 2011 NBA Rookie Redemption Autograph card. There are 39 different redemption cards that right now don’t mean anything. This October, Panini will have a random draft to assign each redemption card to one of the 39 rookies from 2011. Yes, you could end up with Kyrie Irving, but you could also end up with a third autograph that you could pick up for .99¢ on eBay. Lots of people are currently trying to put together complete sets of the redemption cards and the chance at Irving has these cards selling for $30-$40 on eBay. Seems like a no-brainer to me since the majority of the 39 cards that you have a chance at getting are going to sell below $30. These cards will not have low print runs.

To sum things up quickly, love the look of the cards. Boxes were overpriced at $100. They’ve come down to around $85 now that the price fixing period is over. I think they’ll eventually settle at $75 and will be a good value at that price. This is a huge change for Panini. There were some exceptions such as Classics, but the majority of their releases would have 4 relic cards and one auto and now they’re giving you three autos and one relic card. That’s a nice change. The change from the reliance on cookie cutter design is a great change as well. Panini flexed some creative muscle with this release and I hope that it continues with future sets.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Rebuilding For Success: Benchwarmer Baseball Week 3 & 4

The tough run continued for the Savin Hill Sox in week 3 as they dropped five out of the six games played that week. Starting pitching continued to be an issue, but the offense wasn’t lighting it up either. Having a great bullpen doesn’t do you any good if you can’t get a lead to turn over to them.

Lineup: Murphy 3B – Reimold OF – Iannetta C – Votto 1B – Markakis OF – Kipnis 2B – Aybar SS – Crisp OF – Carroll DH
Bench: Lowrie – Venable – Morel – Revere – Nunez

Jason Kipnis had a huge week at the plate (.417 – 1 3B – 1 HR – 6 RBI – 1 SB) and was joined by Coco Crisp (.308 – 2 SB in 4 games) and Joey Votto (.286 – 1 HR – 6 RBI – 4 R – 1 SB). Other than that, there wasn’t much as far as offensive highlights go and the team only batted .219 for the week.

Rotation: Lester – Dickey – McCarthy – Norris – Karstens
Spot: Paulino – Parker

R.A. Dickey turned in the only strong outing and got the only win of the week (7 IP – 1 ER – 3 H – 7 K – 1 BB). Brandon McCarthy had one quality start, but just barely (6 IP – 2 ER) and picked up two losses for the week. The team’s ERA for the week was 5.03.

Bullpen: Papelbon – Myers – Adams – Bryan Shaw – Robbie Ross

Jonathan Papelbon had a Benchwarmer week for the ages. Now is probably a good time to mention that the bullpen stats given here, unlike the batting and starting stats, aren’t the actual stats put up by these relief pitchers. Here’s the description from the Benchwarmer website:

Bullpen statistics are derived averages, since 11 major league games are used for a 6-game BWB week. Per-game and per-inning averages are multiplied by the number of times his slot was needed in BWB games. The numbers themselves may appear unrealistic, but they attempt to more accurately measure how the pitcher is affecting your outcome.

For the week, Papelbon had stats of 6 IP – 6 Sv – 0 ER – 0 H – 7 K – 1 BB. That was good enough to earn him the Reliever of the Week award. Mike Adams contributed 3 scoreless innings with 3 Ks and Robbie Ross added an inning and two third of scoreless relief. The bullpen ERA for 17.3 innings of work was a tiny 1.04.

Week 1: 3-3
Week 2: 2-4
Week 3: 1-5
Season: 6-12

Week 3 brought on more roster tinkering. I released Kevin Gregg whose ERA at the time was almost 8. I also released Greg Dobbs who was the unfortunate victim of the Jose Reyes signing by the Marlins. Hanley Ramirez moved over the third base and Dobbs lost his starting job. I released Ben Revere when he was struggling and had been sent down to the minors. He’s now back up again and batting .291, but hasn’t done much else so he’s probably not worth a second look. My final release for the week was Brent Morel. Morel was batting under .200 and on the DL so he definitely wasn’t worth a roster spot.

To replace those players, I signed Alex Liddi who was red hot at the time, but has now cooled off a little (.250 – 3 HR – 9 RBI). I also picked up Baltimore starter Jason Hammel who was 3-0 with a sub 2 ERA at the time. He’s now 6-1 with a 2.78 ERA and 1.13 WHIP with 53 K and 17 BB in 55 IP. Hammel is a big reason why the Orioles have spent the majority of the season in first place. Another pickup, since I really needed a backup catcher, was Nick Hundley (.173 – 3 HR – 16 RBI). The final new addition to the team was Gerardo Parra who is a bit of a speed demon for the Diamondbacks (.267 – 2 HR – 14 RBI – 24 R – 10 SB).

One thing that I’ve been more conscientious of this season is the value that I’m getting for the salary paid. If I’m paying a high salary for a guy to hit .250, I can probably drop him to pick up a guy doing the same for the league minimum. From the start of the season, I’ve gone from 27 players with a salary over $250,000 to just 25. I’ve also reduced some salaries that have remained over that $250,000 threshold. It’s important to have that cash on hand to sign free agents and extend the contracts of rookies and players having career years.

Week 4 was the exact opposite of the previous week for the Sox. They started the week with a 5 game winning streak before losing the final game 4-2.

Lineup: Kipnis 2B – Parra OF – Reimold OF – Votto 1B – Liddi DH – Murphy 3B – Markakis OF – Lowrie SS – Iannetta C
Bench: Nunez – Bryce Harper – Venable – Carroll – Hundley

This week marked the much hyped call-up of phenom Bryce Harper. I decided to play it safe and just give him a bench spot for this week. Hopefully he’ll have played his way into the starting lineup by the end of the season.

The offense turned things around this week with a team average of .270. Due to the Reimold injury, Harper ended up playing in all 6 games batting .333 with 5 doubles and a steal of home. Jed Lowrie led the way offensively though. He batted .400 with an .800 slugging percentage. (2 HR – 5 RBI – 6 R) Dan Murphy batted .381 for the week and Votto hit .350 with 4 doubles and 6 walks.

Rotation: Lester – Dickey – McCarthy – Hammel Parker
Spot: Paulino – Norris

Some new blood in the rotation seems to have turned things around. The starting staff turned in six quality starts and got 5 wins with a bullpen loss in Hammel’s second start. The team’s starting ERA was 2.31 with 35 K in 39 IP. Lester led the way with 7 innings of shutout ball and 7 Ks, but Jarrod Parker was right behind him with six and a third and only one run allowed.

Bullpen: Papelbon – Myers – Adams – Shaw – Ross

It’s another solid week for the bullpen who only needed to pitch 14.1 innings in 6 games. Papelbon and Myers were bother credit with 6 saves for the week and neither one gave up a run. Myers gave up two hits and Pap gave up two walks  The bullpen’s ERA for the week was 1.28.

Week 1: 3-3
Week 2: 2-4
Week 3: 1-5
Week 4: 5-1
Season: 11-13

Week 4’s releases included: Erick Aybar (.215), Coco Crisp (.165 and trip to DL), Karstens (0-1 4.50 DL) and Venable (.250 average at the time, upgraded to Cody Ross)

Week 4 signings: Tony Campana (.299 – 13 SB), Joe Saunders (3-3 3.79 ERA – 1.30 WHIP), and Cody Ross (.271 – 8 HR – 28 RBI – 24 R and currently on the DL). More salary reduction and more upgrading. Campana was a huge signing and Ross was red hot right before he broke his foot.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Rebuilding For Success: Benchwarmer Baseball Week 1 & 2

The Savin Hill Sox got off to a hot start for the 2012 season with a three game sweep of the Georgetown Canal Mules. Jon Lester, R.A. Dickey, and Brandon McCarthy got the wins with strong pitching performances. The second half of the week didn’t go so well as the Sox got swept by the Generation of Heroes. Jon Lester picked up a loss to go to 1-1 while the other two losses were credited to the bullpen.

Week 1 Lineup: Coco Crisp OF – Ben Revere OF – Jamey Carroll DH – Joey Votto 1B – Nick Markakis OF – Jason Kipnis 2B – Erick Aybar SS – Brent Morel 3B – Crhis Iannetta C
Bench: Dan Murphy – Will Venable – Jed Lowrie – Nolan Reimold – Eduardo Nunez

The offense was led by Joey Votto (.364 - 3 RBI - 3 2B), Jason Kipnis (.250 - 6 RBI - 5 R - 2 HR – 1 3B), and Chris Iannetta (.176 – 5RBI - 2 HR).

Rotation: Jon Lester – R.A. Dickey – Brandon McCarthy – Bud Norris – Jeffrey Karstens
Spot: Andrew Miller – Felipe Paulino

The starting pitchers had a 2.20 ERA for the week in 6 quality starts and a 3-1 record. Jon Lester was the pitcher of the week with two quality starts including a one-run complete game to kick things off. For the week, he had a record of 1-1 with an ERA of 2.40 and WHIP of 0.933. Lester struck out 10 in 15 innings while walking 5.

Bullpen: Jonathan Papelbon – Brett Myers – Mike Adams – Kevin Gregg – Fernando Salas

Bullpen losses occur in Benchwarmer when your team loses, but your starting pitcher has good numbers. So, the two losses that the bullpen picked up for the week don’t reflect bad real world performances on their part. In fact, only three pitchers were needed out of the bullpen and their combined ERA for the week was 1.38. Brett Myers had 5 saves for the week with an ERA of 0.00 and WHIP of 1.00. Myers struck out an impressive 8 batters in 5 innings proving that Houston was correct in giving the closer job to him (especially with how bad Melancon has been, bet the Red Sox want Lowrie back). Papelbon had 3 saves with an ERA of 2.50. Mike Adams also pitched effectively for this strong bullpen.

Week 1: 3-3
Season: 3-3

Week 2 was a little rougher for the Sox as they were only able to tally two wins. R.A. Dickey picked up his second win of the season with another strong outing. Bud Norris went to 2-0 as well as he pitched just well enough for the offense to power the team to victory as they pounded out 15 hits and scored 7 runs.

Week 2 Lineup: Murphy 3B – Reimold OF – Iannetta C – Votto 1B – Markakis OF – Kipnis 2B – Aybar SS – Crisp OF – Carroll DH
Bench: Lowrie – Venable – Morel – Revere - Nunez

Nolan Reimold only played two games during the week, but he batted .444 with a home run which was the only one that the team hit all week. Dan Murphy, Erick Aybar, and Jason Kipnis all batted over .400 for the week while playing all six games. Kipnis had 3 stolen bases, hit a triple, and scored 5 runs to pace the team in those categories.

Rotation: Lester – Dickey – McCarthy – Norris – Karstens
Spot: Miller – Paulino

In a complete turn-around from the previous week, the team’s ERA for week 2 was 7.36 and the only quality start was turned in by R.A. Dickey in his first start of two on the week. Lester’s 7 runs in 2 innings was the worst of a bad week.

Bullpen: Papelbon – Myers – Adams – Franklin Morales – Salas

The front end of the bullpen had a strong week. Papelbon, Myers and Adams combined for 17 scoreless innings. Papelbon put up 5 saves in six games while striking out 6 in 6 IP. Myers picked up 2 saves in six games while striking out 8 in 6 IP and a WHIP of 0.00. Even with bad performances by Salas and Morales, the bullpen’s combined ERA for the week was 2.57.

Week 2 was the first week where I made any adjustments to my roster. I release Andrew Miller who was injured and down in Pawtucket and Fernando Salas who is a completely different pitcher than last year (currently 0-3 6.32 ERA – 2.04 WHIP and in the minors). To replace them, I picked up some bullpen help in Bryan Shaw (0-2 3.32 ERA – 5 Holds – 1.05 WHIP currently) and Robbie Ross (5-0 1.99 ERA – 0.88 WHIP – Can you say vulture?). The rebuilding continues.

Week 1: 3-3
Week 2: 2-4
Season: 5-7

Friday, May 25, 2012

Rebuilding For Success: Pre-season

Since I haven’t been as interested in sports cards lately, I thought that I might try a little writing about something else sports related that I have benn enjoying lately: fantasy baseball. To be more specific, I’m going to write a little bit about my Benchwarmer Baseball keeper team that is now going into its third season.

Last year, my team had mixed results. While I did finish in first place in my division by 14 games, I did so with a losing record (71-79). I was the best in a division of bad teams. Not only do I want to repeat this season, but I want to do so with a much better record. Last season, I was swept out of the first round of the playoffs and I want to win at least one round this season.

One thing about having a bad team is that you end up with the earliest picks during the year. Due to having a .500 team for my first two seasons, I’ve ended up with some decent draft picks. I entered this season with the last two #1 picks in my minor league roster. Bryce Harper stood poised to make his major league debut this season while Gerrit Cole was a long shot at a possible September call-up.

During the regular season, teams get to maintain a roster of 40 players. You only get to carry over 28 of those player to the next season, so you’ve got to put a lot of thought into who you keep around. Here’s a list of the players who I released from my roster:

  • Mike Adams (high salary)
  • Wade Davis (moved from rotation to bullpen – salary too high)
  • Kevin Correia (1-5 4.50 ERA 16K 15BB so far in 2012)
  • Hideki Matsui (Recently signed minor league deal with Tampa Bay)
  • Tony Sipp (0-2 5.40 ERA 1.53 WHIP)
  • John Buck (.173 4 HR)
  • Roger Bernadina (.224 2 HR – not a starter)
  • Grady Sizemore (Hurt AGAIN)
  • Eric Hinske (.271 1 HR – not a starter)
  • Jordan Lyles (0-1 5.29 ERA 1.53 WHIP in three spot starts)
  • Kaleb Cowart (declining prospect)
  • Luis Exposito (declining, blocked (at the time) prospect – has since been traded to Baltimore, hit .059 sent back to minors)
  • Tony Sanchez (declining prospect)

Who did I pick up in the redistribution draft? You’ll find a list below along with their performance so far this year. Did I improve the team?

  • Chris Iannetta (In desperate need of catchers after Victor Martinez injury - .197 3 HR now on DL)
  • Brandon McCarthy (3-3 2.95 ERA 40K 16BB 1.34 WHIP – now on DL)
  • Erick Aybar (.222)
  • Ben Revere (.244)
  • Felipe Paulino (started season on DL – 2-1 1.42 ERA 29K 7BB 1.14 WHIP since coming off of DL)
  • Nolan Reimold (started off season red hot - .313 5HR 10 RBI 10 R in 16 games, but hasn’t played since April 30)
  • R.A. Dickey (6-1 3.45 51K 16BB 1.17 WHIP)
  • Brent Morel (.177 14 R – now on DL)
  • Mike Adams (0-2 2.20 ERA 13K 2BB .98 WHIP)

Four of these guys are no longer on my roster, but there were some big additions to the team here. I’ll need McCarthy and Reimold to contribute once they come off of the DL. Dickey has been huge and Paulino has been red hot lately.

You can continue to tweak your roster in the weeks leading up to the start of the season. There are trades to be made and free agents to be signed.

In week –6, I signed Franklin Morales (0-1 4.40 ERA 1.67 WHIP 7 Holds)

In week –5, I traded away Ryan Roberts (.238 3 HR 19 RBI 12 R) for Jarrod Parker (1-2 3.37 ERA 1.36 WHIP)

In week –4, I signed away newly released Jose Iglesias (I’m a sucker for Red Sox prospects) along with Tyler Greene (.239 4 HR 6 SB and plays three positions) and Brett Myers (0-1 1.69 ERA 11 SV .81 WHIP)

In week –3, I finalized my roster by signing Will Venable (.273 3 HR 18 R 5 SB) and releasing Sam Fuld (60-day DL and a crowded Rays outfield)

Here’s my opening day roster for the 2012 Savin Hill Sox (keepers in bold):

L1: Coco Crisp
L2: Ben Revere
L3: Jamey Carroll
L4: Joey Votto
L5: Nick Markakis
L6: Jason Kipnis
L7: Erick Aybar
L8: Brent Morel
L9: Chris Iannetta

B1: Dan Murphy – 1B, 2B, 3B
B2: Will Venable – OF
B3: Jed Lowrie – 3B, SS
B4: Nolan Reimold – OF
B5: Eduardo Nunez – 3B, SS, 2B

P1: Jon Lester
P2: R.A. Dickey
P3: Brnadon McCarthy
P4: Bus Norris
P5: Jeffrey Karstens

S1: Andrew Miller
S2: Felipe Paulino

R1: Jonathan Papelbon
R2: Brett Myers
R3: Mike Adams
R4: Kevin Gregg
R5: Fernando Salas

Taxi: Greg Dobbs
T: Franklin Morales

Minors: Alex Cobb
M: Domonic Brown
M: Tyler Greene
M: Yonder Alonso
M: Blake Swihart
M: Zack Wheeler
M: Gerrit Cole
M: Ryan Lavarnway
M: Jose Iglesias
M: Kolbrin Vitek
M: Jarrod Parker
M: Bryce Harper

IR: Victor Martinez

Next up, the first couple of weeks and results. The league is 6 weeks and 7 weeks of transactions old. I just pulled off a big trade where I gave up a lot to improve the one position where I really needed help. What do you think of my off-season moves and Opening Day roster? Should this team improve on the 71-79 record that I had last season? Stay tuned to see how the Sox do.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Gimme an A…and another A.


There’s a decent chuck of time from the late 90s to early 00s where I wasn’t collecting much at all. I’d buy a discount box at Kmart every now and then, but that was about it. It’s a shame because I love a lot of what card companies did during the 90s. A lot of these inserts appeal more to me than my 100th card with a swatch of a player’s jersey in it. In my latest package from CheckOutMyCards, I picked up a few of those inserts.

I actually have a Ken Griffey Jr Spellbound in my collection and while I like Griffey, he’s not a player that would motivate me to go out and collect all of the letters from his name. Mike Piazza, a player that I just happen to collect, is another of the players to have his name spelled out in the Spellbound insert set. These four cards were on COMC at a good price, so I decided that I start on my way.

What’s not to love about these cards? There’s a big picture of the player framed by foil and etched foil. You’ve got different pictures on the front and back which is always a nice touch. Putting this set together is also a very realistic goal since it is only six cards.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Hanx For The Memories


I’m not quite sure what to think of these Razor cards. I finally found this Tom Hanks wardrobe card for a decent price over on and so I decided to take the plunge.

These cards couldn’t be more non-descript. “This card includes an actual piece of clothing worn by Tom Hanks.” While I’d love a piece of the eye-catching suit that Hanks wore in Big, this certainly isn’t a piece of that. It’s blue and corduroy and…well, that’s about it. I can’t think of any specific movie that Mr. Hanks wore this kind of blue corduroy in, but he’s been in a ton of movies at this point. That being said, I doubt that this card is from any movie wardrobe. I know that celebrities often will donate old clothes to be auctioned off for charity and I’m thinking that something like that is more likely the source of this clothing swatch. I’ve been a Tom Hanks fan for most of my life. Heck, I was a fan of his before I even knew who he was. (I loved Bosom Buddies as a kid.) He’s an amazing actor and a class act, which seems to be rare amongst celebrities in this day and age. Tom’s former cords are a quirky addition to my collection.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Commissioner Offy

I mentioned in a previous post that I had commissioned a couple of pieces to be picked up at the Boston ComicCon. I’m going to show them off here because I’m currently kind of bored with cards and excited about these. I had ordered a 6”x6” mini-painting of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends as well as a Spider-Ham sketch card from Katie Cook. There was some stuff left behind due to a hectic schedule on Katie’s part and some confusion on my part (I forgot what dimensions my mini-painting were supposed to be) and so I currently don’t have any of those commissions to show off. I do have something to show off though:


This mini-painting measures somewhere around 3”x4” and fits perfectly in a team bag which is what I’ve got it in for now. Eventually, I want to pick up a little frame for it.

If you ever find yourself heading to a show that Katie will be at, come up with a list of your favorite super heroes, pop culture characters, cats, etc. and take advantage of her $5 mini paintings. You can’t find a better deal at any convention. Katie’s pack pulled sketch cards sell anywhere between $100 and $400. Heck, many of these mini-paintings are immediately thrown up on eBay and sell for $20-$30 (seems kind of douchey to me). I got this card, my daughter got a cat, and for my wife I grabbed pre-painted Sam Eagle and Edward Scissorhands. Now I also get the added surprise of one day coming home to a surprise of a painting and sketch card from Katie.


I’m still absolutely giddy about this piece here. Last year’s Boston ComicCon was exposure to the work of Stephanie Buscema. It’s got this unique, retro look to it and I love it. We spent some time that year talking to Stephanie about the project that she was promoting at the time, Teenage Satan.

As this year’s ComicCon approached and I started to come up with my plan in regards to getting commissions, Stephanie was at the top of my list. I tossed some ideas around, but it wasn’t until I talked to my wife about using some of my CcomicCon funds and some of our tax refund to splurge on something nice that things really came together.

So, we ended up with this amazing 6th anniversary present to ourselves. Once we get time, we’ll get it framed and it will hang in our dining room. The walls in there are a similar color to the background behind Death so it should look great in there. Who knows, this could be the start of our own personal art collection.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Organization Begins

Nothing exciting here, but I was finally able to get my makeshift organization center together.


I had originally planned on placing the shelving unit into the nook sideways so that I could fit two of them into this space. I ran into two issues with that though. The first was that these units aren’t made to be used sideways. The horizontal shelves are sturdy, but the vertical partitions aren’t weight bearing at all. The second issue was that the cardboard bins that I ordered didn’t fit into the slots this way. So, here’s the shelving unit as it was designed to be used with 15 trays in it and another 5 trays on top. You can’t see in this picture, but the little nook is 2 inches two short of having the second unit stacked on top of this one.

100_7911  I actually don’t plan to have the trays sticking out of the slots like you would with a filing cabinet. I just did that with these pictures to shows a couple of the trays in action. Right now, I’ve just moved some of the stacks on my desk to the trays, but in the future I’ll probably use them more for sorting purposes. Each storage unit has 15 slots which means I could devote a whole tray to each MLB team if I wanted to. That would make trading a whole lot easier than it is for me right now.


Here’s a closer view of the few of the trays. There are a bunch of Celtics to be sorted and put away next to bunch of Piazza cards that need to be put away and the final drawer in the picture has Non-Sports/Wrestling cards that need to go away.

The second storage unit will probably have to go in front of the wall to the left of the one pictured here. I’ve been toying with the idea of stacking the two units in that spot, but then I’m in the position of once again coming up with a good idea for the little nook area. We’ll see how things go once I start using this area regularly.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

That’s My B-Oyo

I keep going to big comic book conventions and I’m not sure why. I really only buy new issues of comics and I’m not looking to pick up any vintage issues or dig through long boxes looking for bargains. There are only a handful of artists that I’ll stand in line for in order to obtain a sketch. I can’t stand a room full of people who don’t know how to act when out in public. I don’t mean to further stereotypes, but the best analogy I can think of for how people travel through a Comic Book Convention is a game of electric football. I never have this problem even when walking through the most crowded of sports card shows.

That being said, I took a different approach to this year’s Boston ComicCon. Since I knew that I probably wouldn’t end up spending a lot of money there, I decided to spend the money before the convention on commissions to pick up at the convention. That part of my play went very well. I also have a tendency to find some nice sports collectibles at the ComicCon which seems to be a completely unexpected result. Last year, I picked up the Rondo and Shaq McFarlane figures for $10 a piece. This year, my purchase was a little smaller.


I’ve had my eye on these Oyo mini-figures since I first heard about them. I’ve been collecting the blind packed LEGO minifigures and have a bunch of the LEGO NBA minifigures. LEGO did release a generic baseball player in one of their minifigure releases, but a licensed product is so much cooler.


These Oyo figures have more articulation to them than your typical LEGO minifigure. First off, these little guys have elbows. That’s huge for sports figures. As you can see in the picture, David Ortiz can actually hold his bat. The second thing that you might notice is that these figures also have knees. Look at that leg kick.

Each figure comes with a bat, glove, ball and home plate shaped base. With the multiple accessories that come with each figure and the high level of poseability, you can do a lot with these figures. Oyo has gone pretty deep into many rosters so you can set up the majority of many MLB teams. If a particular player hasn’t been made, you could by the generic figure that they have for each team as a stand-in.

Just about the only negative that these figures have going for them is the price point. The MLB license must have been pretty expensive. LEGO minifigures can be purchased for anywhere between $2.99 and $4.99. The suggested retail price for these figures is $12.99. The only reason that I purchased the ones that I did was because they had a price tag of $10 on them. It still seems a little steep at first, but the extra articulation and accessories make it worthwhile. I would definitely buy more of these at $9.99, but I can’t see myself paying $12.99.

Overall, I love these figures. Oyo did a great job on making the tiny little heads resemble the players they are representing. The accessories are great and the articulation is awesome. The price point is a little high, but I’m hoping that future releases might be a little lower in price. These are definitely worth checking out if you happen to see them somewhere. You can also order them on the Oyo website.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Fenway Park Open House: Visitors’ Clubhouse


While the Red Sox Clubhouse was shut down early in the day to be used by players, there was absolutely no line for the visitors’ clubhouse. I really, really want one of those 100th Anniversary folding chairs.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Fenway Park Open House


To celebrate Fenway Park’s 100th Birthday, the Red Sox held an open house. The big draw to this open house was that just about every part of the park was open to the public. This has never been done before. What I really got excited about was the opportunity to peek inside of the Green Monster. It was a really quick peek, but it was well worth the wait. Luckily, I showed up early and didn’t have to wait too long. Once I was wandering around the park, the line grew extremely long. This picture was taken from the roof level seats and you can see part of the line coming down the third baseline. At this point, the line was extending down past home and around towards the home dugout. You’ll be able to see that as I post more pictures.

The Red Sox Open House ended up drawing over 50,000 people. The middle of the day was a little jam packed because there aren’t a ton of things to keep fans entertained. This is why there were huge lines on the field, free autographs had a line 2 hours long, seeing the Red Sox clubhouse had a huge line until they had to shut it down when players needed to use it. I made the most of it though since I’ve already been on the field numerous times, I went there first before it got crowded and then stayed away from it for the rest of the day. I saw the visitor’s clubhouse, Royal Rooter’s Club/The Nation’s Archives (Which will be open to the public on future tours), Absolut Clubhouse, and a few other areas not usually open to the public. There were a few hiccups, but I had a great day. Hope you all enjoy the pictures to come.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Getting Organized

I would say that the biggest obstacle for me in enjoying my collection is my current lack of organization. When I was younger, I had a lot fewer cards and I also had a lot more free time to devote to the organization of my collection. These days, with a lot less time to spend organizing a lot of things just end up in piles on my desk. Then I have no room to organize so I end up not doing it. It’s really a vicious cycle.

So, I’ve got the wheels in motion to do something about that organization problem. I found these shoe cubbies at Target for $35 that looked like they would do the job. They’ve got 15 slots and are the perfect size for trading card sized items. The shelves alone will be great for storing things like packages of toploaders, but they won’t be all that great for cards themselves. To remedy that problem, I ordered 50 cardboard inventory bins. The bins themselves are great and don’t cost all that much, but the shipping will kill you unless you have a place nearby that happens to sell them. Getting them shipped to Staples was more expensive than getting them shipped from the place I did even with the shipping costs. The total cost for the two show cubbies and the inventory bins will be right around $100 and I’ll have some extra bins to use elsewhere. A little pricey, but not too bad for what’s going to be a great storage solution.

I carefully put together one of the shoe cubbies today. Luckily they aren’t heavy since I’m still on restrictions after my surgery. The only downside that I see is that the shelves aren’t quite as sturdy as I expected. This fact is complicated by the fact that the space I’m putting these in is a little weird sized and I need to turn them sideways to fit both of them. If worse comes to worse then I’ll put it flat again and use the second one elsewhere. I don’t think that weight on the shelves will become an issue though. Once I get this all together, I’ll post some pictures of it in use.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Greatest Of All Time


When Panini released their Basketball Hall of Fame set, it could have been the greatest basketball set of all time, but there were a few things preventing that from happening. The first was that they had no access to Michael Jordan due to his exclusive contract with Upper Deck. The second problem was that it costs a heck of a lot more to get the autographs of the big stars than it does everyone else. That resulted in poor collation with the same common autographs showing up again and again.

One good thing that did come out of this set was the very first autographed card of Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt. I actually pulled two of these out of the boxes that I opened, but I sold one right away which helped to pay for another box. I think this is by far the best card that I pulled out of my boxes. Even though there are 599 copies of this card, it sells for around $50-$60 on eBay and will probably spike a little with the recent news of Summitt’s retirement.

It’s not often that you can an autograph of someone who is the greatest at what they do. I know coaches aren’t as glamorous as players, but Pat Summitt is to college basketball coaching what Michael Jordan is to NBA Basketball. They are both, inarguably, the best in what they did and that’s a huge thing. So, while the Panini Basketball Hall of Fame set did not have the greatest basketball player of all time, they did manage to succeed in a cardboard first for the best colligate coach.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Panini Makes Good

This post is overdue, but it’s kind of appropriate given the subject matter. I had the misfortune of dealing with Panini while their customer service and fulfillment departments were in a shambles. They claim that they are in the process of improving this, so until I have to deal with them again, I will give them the benefit of the doubt. Since I don’t buy anything from Panini, that probably won’t be any time soon.


After waiting over a year, dealing with extreme frustration and searching out someone through their personal Twitter, I got the following cards sent to me:

2010-11 Absolute Memorabilia Avery Bradley Rookie Premiere Materials 177/499. When I got this card, it was when there were rumors circulating that the Celtics might trade away Rajon Rondo. I joked that this card could possibly be a good one if that to occur. Rondo didn’t get traded, but a Ray Allen injury and eventual transition to a bench role paved the way for the emergence of Avery Bradley. The Celtics climb to the top of the Atlantic Division and anything they may do in this year’s playoff will be in large part to Bradley and what Rondo can now do in the open court with Bradley and Bass running with him.

2010-11 Gold Standard Kevin Garnett Gold Medalists Prime Patch 5/25. This is a pretty cool card and while I know that the patch in this card is most likely from a Timberwolves jersey, I’d love to think it was from one of KG’s USA jerseys. I don’t think Panini picked up a jersey from the 2000 games though. I’m still not even sure that the jersey swatches in the USA cards from the Basketball Hall of Fame set are from actual Olympic jerseys. One question that I’ve got about this card is concerning the jersey number. Garnett has worn #5 the entire time that he’s been in Boston, but his Olympic jersey number as pictured on the card is #10. So, would this card bring in a jersey number premium on eBay? It doesn’t really matter since I’m pretty sure this card will have a permanent home in my collection.

It was kind of disappointing to have an Avery Bradley autograph take the place of Cheryl Miller, a member of the Hall of Fame. The Garnett patch makes up for it a little bit, but a patch card, even if it is numbered to 25, doesn’t have the same prestige as a HOF auto. I find it hard to believe that Panini didn’t have a high numbered or unnumbered Rondo, Pierce, Allen or Garnett auto to send, but they made a good effort and worked within my request and in the end, I am happy.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Happy Patriot's Day

Patriot's Day is a quasi-holiday that's only celebrated in the city of Boston. The reason? Today is Marathon Monday. The Red Sox play early, many streets are blocked off and most people end up working even if they are in Boston.

I'm home today, but it's for a completely different reason. Today is day 3 of my recovery from hernia surgery. It's nothing major, but will still be 2 weeks until I'm able to return to work and even then it will be a while before I'm lifting any MacPros.

One good thing is that there will be a span of a week or so where I'll be able to get around alright, but just won't be able to lift anything. That's when I plan on catching up on the three trades that have been sitting on my desk. I have to tally up the points for the Red Sox Frankenset entries and get the return packages ready to go.

It seems like exclusives are killing my interest in the hobby. I don't want to buy anything basketball and since I'm not going anywhere near the majority of the high end sets, most of the year there's nothing that interests me. Luckily there's a ton of great non-sports releases out there. I busted a box of Big Bang Theory and while I paid a little more for it than I would have liked, the fact that I ripped open the packs with my wife made it invaluable. We weren't lucky enough to pull one of the main cast autos, but it was still a fun break. It's crazy what the autos are going for from this set and it makes me think there's currently a lot more money to be made in non-sports releases of the top licenses out there than there is in sports cards. The sports card industry needs a complete overhaul.

Speaking on non-sports, this weekend is the Boston ComicCon. This is a real comic book convention and not a pop culture convention masquerading as a comic book show. The guests are all comic book professionals including legends such as Al Jaffe. (Sergio Araggones was scheduled to attend, but cancelled.) I'm especially excited about this Con since I'll be picking up some original art at the show. My wife and I got a painting of Neil Gaiman's Death commissioned by Stephanie Buscema. I've seen a picture of it and it is absolutely gorgeous. Neil Gaiman tweeted the picture to all of his followers and it made it's way all over the Internet. I'm also picking up a mini painting and a sketch card from Katie Cook. Those will be some very cool additions to the collection.

I did have one very cool thing happen. A couple of years ago, my wife won a contest where the grand prize was Alice in Chains tickets, a meet and greet and a gold record of their latest album. Time has passed and I really don't have anywhere to hang the award and don't really have a connection to this version of the band without Layne fronting them. So, I listed the album on eBay and it ended up selling for $500 which is a lot more than what I thought it would go far after looking at comparable gold records. I'll be sharing the loot with the wife since she's the one that originally won the contest, but it's still a lot more fun money than I thought I would have.

On the sports front, the Red Sox are having an open house at Fenway Park this Thursday to celebrate the 100th anniversary. Supposedly, they are allowing people to look inside the Green Monster which never happens and other rarely seen parts of the park will be accessible as well. So, I just might spend the whole day there and take a few hundred pictures. It's great seeing baseball back and I'm extremely excited about the rejuvenated Celtics who look like they can beat everyone in the East except the Bulls. If Rose can't heal up then it's anyone's series to win.

So, there's my update. Hopefully I heal up quickly so that I can get back to putting actual content on here.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Snore Fest

So, this blog has been extremely silent as of late. I also owe a few people my end of trades. I hate that both of these are true, but unfortunately things have mostly been out of my control. Lately, I’ve been fighting a losing battle with sleep apnea and it’s affecting every aspect of my life. Most days, I go to work, come home, fall asleep, eat dinner and then pass out for the night. Even when I’m not tired to begin with, things like looking at cards or reading a computer screen quickly make me tired.

Hopefully there’s an end is sight. Last night I had a sleep study done to try and find out exactly how I can end this. I’ve got my follow-up appointment in two weeks and hope to hear some good news. That being said, it doesn’t excuse the tardiness of my trades. It sucks and I know it. I’ve got a few trades that I’ve been waiting months on and I know how frustrating it can be. I want to promise that at the very least, if I’m unable to complete these trades that I keep the people involved updated. That being said, I want to get these trades completed as soon as possible.

In the meantime, I’ve been picking up a few things on eBay, got Gene Conley’s autograph at a local show and busted a box of 2012 Opening Day (which I loved). I finally got my replacement cards from Panini for the Cheryl Miller autograph and I’m extremely happy with them. Hopefully there will be more on that later. So for the lack of anything lately. Hopefully I’ll be back to my old self soon.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Autographs For Sale

Pick up a lot of cards that are the remnants of someone’s collection. Looking to sell some stuff to make back what I paid for the lot. There are a bunch of autographs available, if you are interested in any of them then let me know and we’ll work something out. Let me know if you want to see a scan. All of those autos are on-card.

  • 1996 Leaf Signature Series
    • Wilson Alvarez – White Sox (Gold /500 and Bronze /3500 available)
    • Ben McDonald – Brewers (Bronze /3500)
    • Trevor Hoffman – Padres (Silver /1000)
    • Allen Battle – A’s (Bronze /3500)
    • Mike Mimbs – Phillies (Bronze /3500)
    • Travis Fryman – Tigers (Bronze /3500)
    • Sterling Hitchcock – Mariners (Bronze /3500)
    • Julian Tavarez – Indians (Bronze /3500)
    • Troy Percival – Angels (Bronze /3500)
    • James Mouton – Astros (Silver – unsigned /1000)
    • Arthur Rhodes – Orioles (Silver /1000)
    • Ariel Prieto – A’s (Silver /1000)
    • Robb Nen – Marlins (Silver /1000)
    • Jeff Fassero – Expos (Silver /1000)
    • Terry Steinbach – A’s (Gold /500)
    • Joe Vitiello – Royals (Gold /500)
    • John Mabry – Cardinals (Gold /500)
    • Quilvio Veras – Marlins (Gold /500)
    • Jason Schmidt – Braves (Bronze /3500)
    • Rusty Greer – Rangers (Bronze /3500)
    • Bobby Higginson – Tigers (Gold /500)
    • Shane Reynolds – Astros (Gold /500)
  • 1996 Leaf Signature Extended
    • Jason Christiansen – Pirates
    • Omar Daal – Expos
    • Jesus Tavarez – Marlins
    • Shawn Boskie – Angels
  • 1995 Classic 5-Sport
    • Paul Wilson - Mets
    • Pokey Reese - Reds
    • Ben Davis - Padres
    • Rey Ordonez – Mets
    • Derrek Lee – Padres
  • Signatures Rookies
    • 1994 Draft Picks – Dustin Hermanson – San Diego /7750
    • 1994 Draft Picks – Heath Murray – San Diego /7750
    • 1994 Tetrad – Roberto Petagine – FA /7750
    • 1994 Tetrad – Derrek Lee – San Diego /7750
    • 1995 Baseball – Joe Randa – Royals /5750
  • Other
    • 1992 Upper Deck Heroes of Baseball H6 – Lou Brock /3000
    • 1998 Bowman – A.J. Hinch – A’s
    • 1996 Best – Todd Greene
  • Football
    • 2002 UD Graded – Ron Johnson – PSA 9 - /550
    • 2002 UD Graded – Maurice Morris – PSA 9 - /250

Monday, February 27, 2012

Check Out More Cards

I had a couple of big sales on CheckOutMyCards out of the blue and decided to put those funds to good use. It’s interesting to see how my collecting has changed. In the 90s, I would pick up new stuff almost exclusively at card shows. I would pick stuff up at card shops as well, but not as frequently. These days, I might have a new card arrive to become part of my collection every day of the week. It’s always a pleasure to see a package arrive from COMC since a whole bunch of new cards will be added to my collection.


First up are a couple of 2011 Finest Tom Bradys. I’ve been slowly getting back into football due to Panini driving me away from basketball cards. When I saw that this year’s Finest offering pictured Brady in the Patriots throwback uniform, I had to have it. For good measure, I decided to pick up both the base card and refractor version of the card since they were both very affordable.


Whenever I get the chance, I’ve been adding Bryce Brentz autographs to my collection. If I remember correctly, this all started when I pulled one myself and from there things have snowballed. Both of these Brentz cards are from In The Game. The cards look nice even without any logos on them. The autos are on opaque stickers, but they go well with these designs. The only additional thing that I’d like to see on these cards is serial numbering. These days, a little detail like that on a card can make all of the difference. Brentz is currently the 8th ranked prospect in a loaded Boston minor league system.


Here’s a little bit of old and new. I picked up an off-center Dennis Johnson rookie and a black bordered parallel from Panini’s Basketball Hall of Fame set. Like most Panini products, this set is best acquired card-by-card. Every single card in this set with the exception of maybe 1% of the cards produced can be acquired for less than you’d pay buying them by the pack. There seem to be a lot of singles on COMC for around a dollar a card which is perfect for me.


Sticking with off-center 1978-79 Topps cards, here’s a Cedric “Cornbread” Maxwell rookie card. It’s not quite as bad as it looks in the scan. I guess I inadvertently cut off the right edge of the card.

I have to chuckle a little bit at Upper Deck including Dee Brown in the Immortals section of the 2009-10 hoops set. I think these are short printed. Eventually, I’ll need to pick up a second copy of this card since I need one for my set and one for my Dee Brown collection. Dee had one of the best dunks ever in the Slam Dunk Contest, but in no way is he an immortal.


BRAINS! Like a zombie, I’m always on the lookout for Brains. Bobby “The Brain” Heenan was the best thing about wrestling in the 80s and 90s. I probably mention this every time that I post cards of The Brain, but his humor was really the only way to make it through some of the terrible matches from the 80s when half of the WWE roster consisted of jobbers.

These Brains all come from 2010 Topps WWE Platinum. The first two are part of the Platinum Performance insert set with the second being a green parallel numbered to 499 copies. The final card is a green parallel of the base card and it is also numbered to 499 copies.


As a kid in the 80s, my two main player collections were Dwight Evans, who played for the hometown Red Sox and Kent Hrbek who played for the Twins. It was pretty random when it came to deciding to collect Hrbek. I noticed that he popped up in a few of the 44 card retail sets that I had purchased and that I had a good number of his cards already.

Though the selection may have been random, I knew what I was doing when I picked Hrbek to be one of my player collections. Like Evans, Hrbek was insanely popular with the hometown crowd, but his abilities weren’t as widely known to the majority of baseball fans.

I couldn’t remember if I already had the 1982 Topps Traded Hrbek XRC, but for the price it was listed at, I wouldn’t mind picking up another one. This would almost definitely be in better condition than anything I would have had from my collection in the 80s. I knew I already had both the 1982 Topps Future Stars card and Hrbek’s 1982 Donruss rookie, but there purchases were made solely for condition upgrades.

The Starting Lineup Talking Baseball card might be the only new addition to my collection. I remember this game being heavily advertised when it came out, but I never owned it. The game came with the AL and NL All-Star teams, but the rest of the MLB teams could be purchased on additional cartridges. The cartridges came with cards of the players included on the team rosters. These painted cards stand up well next to current releases such as Masterpieces or Chicle.


Not too long ago, I finally picked up a Kevin McHale rookie for my collection, but this isn’t that card. This is a reprint from 1996-97 Topps Basketball. Topps has been doing this rookie reprint thing for a while now and have produced so many iconic basketball cards. It’s a shame that they can no longer produce basketball cards.

Here’s another card from current basketball card serial killer Panini. Panini relies far too much on serial numbering to create value in their products. They are lazy in design and uninspired in execution. I won’t even get into their tremendously horrible customer service because I’m sure that all of you are sick of hearing about it.


This Robert Parish rookie is the real thing, but right below it is the chrome version of his rookie reprint which like the McHale is from 1996-97. The Heritage insert from Studio is one of the nicer looking Panini inserts that I’ve seen. Of course, the player is way over to the side to make room for a jersey swatch that is shoved into some of the cards. The main thing that these cards have going for them is that the autographed versions of these are on-card autographs. Wrapping things up is another Panini Basketball Hall of Fame black bordered parallel. Who knows, I may complete the Panini HOF set by the time that their exclusive license runs out and Topps can (hopefully) make basketball cards again.


You know that any package that comes in the mail from COMC is going to include some Mike Piazza cards. This is one of the better batches that I’ve gotten though.

First up is the 1997 Donruss Preferred X-Ponential Power insert numbered to 3000 copies. I’ve had the Tony Gwynn from this set for a while now and think it’s the coolest card that I’ve ever seen. The background is printed on clear acetate, it’s die cut and there’s a good amount of holofoil accents. Once I obtained this card, I was willing and able to trade away the Gwynn which promptly went into a trade pile that will some day be headed off to Fuji.

Next up was a card that I picked up mainly for nostalgia reasons. Back in the 90s, I was completely hooked on watching Don West pitch sports cards on the Shop At Home network. These Elite Dominators were available exclusively through the network when you purchased a box of 1993 Donruss for $99. That’s a huge markup on those boxes for one extra card numbered to 5000 copies. You did have a chance at autographs of Juan Gonzalez, Nolan Ryan, Don Mattingly or Paul Molitor, but there were only 10,000 autographs out of a total print run of 100,000 Elite Dominators. Not terrible odds, but at $99 a box it wasn’t a great gamble either.

I picked up a couple of cards from great 90s Upper Deck insert sets. The Generation Next Era has a motion hologram on it that moves as you tilt the card. The Mickey Mantle Long Shots is printed on that classic Upper Deck holofoil, not the garbage that Panini uses these days. Both of these sets were retail exclusives, but redemption cards for the complete sets could be found in hobby packs.

To round things out is a 2010 Sterling. It’s a great looking card, but Sterling is ridiculously expensive for what you get. I’m perfectly happy just picking up the singles.


One of the few sets that I liked from Panini last year was Totally Certified. It wasn’t quite the original Certified and it wasn’t quite Dufex, but it was a nice combination of the two. I liked it until I busted open a box which reminded me how bad of a value any Panini product is. I ended up picking up the base card, red parallel, red jersey card and Fabric of the Game card pretty cheaply. To top things off, I also picked up the Crown Royale card which is a great looking base card.

The Totally Certified base card is numbered to 1849, the red parallel is numbered to 499, the red jersey card is numbered to 249 and the Fabric of the Game is numbered to 299. Does anything numbered this high really matter? You can usually pick up a card numbered to 499 for the same price as one numbered to 1849 (and I did). These days, unless the numbered is double digits or lower, it doesn’t seem to have a huge effect on the card.

These jersey cards were were purchased for $3.50 and $4.00 which is about the same as a minimum bid plus shipping on eBay. Does this make you happy if you open a box that sells for over $100 and pull a jersey card of one of the top players in the league? This is $60 box content.

COMCPiven 1I had already finished this set a while back, but I hadn’t noticed that one of the U cards had a crease from the bottom edge to the “relic.” So, when this one popped up cheaply, I had to grab it. These cards are a perfect example of serial numbering not meaning everything. These cards are numbered to 55 copies and don’t carry a lot of value while this year’s Topps manufactured relics are numbered to over 700 copies and sell very well.

There you go, a pretty big batch of cards. Normally, I would have broken this up into smaller posts, but I hadn’t posted in a while and have a ton of other things to write about so you get a marathon post. Thanks for reading and don’t forget about the Red Sox Frankenset. Where else can you possibly win prizes from trading away Red Sox commons?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Red Sox Frankenset

I took advantage of a week or so of not feeling well to start a project that I had been thinking of for a while. That project is a Red Sox Frankenset. Not only do I want to assemble a set of Red Sox cards numbered from 1-792 (which could be impossible, I haven’t researched it that thoroughly), but I want to represent as many players and different sets as possible. I’m going to run a contest that’s going to last the remainder of the year to reward people in helping me in putting this set together.

Here's the checklist so far.

I will trade for cards just like I normally do and points will be rewarded with the following criteria:

  • If you trade me a card that goes into the binder you will be rewarded a point.
  • If you trade me a card of a player that isn’t yet represented in the set you will get an extra point
  • If you trade me a card from a set that isn’t yet represented in the set you will get an extra point

So, you can earn up to three points for each card that you send. I also reserve the right to award bonus points at my discretion. If someone sends me a vintage Ted Williams to put into the set then there are going to be some bonus points awarded. I’ll keep a running tally of the points going on the blog and at the end of the year will reward prizes to the leaders. I’ll offer up some sets I’ve got from case breaks, older sets that I’ve got multiples of, cards of the team/player that you collect and other cards that I acquire throughout the course of the year.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Topps Support Failure

I feel like there’s far too much complaining that goes on in the hobby these days and I hate to pile on, but I feel like this is a story that needs to be told. When I opened my case of 2011 Topps Update, I was shorted a hit in one of the boxes. On top of that, it seemed to me that I was missing what should have been the case hit. I scanned my UPCs and receipt and mailed them off to Topps; following the directions given by them to make things easier when shorted a hit. Some time went by before I got an email from Topps Support asking me to call them. I called and spent time on hold before being told that my attached image didn’t go through and I would have to send it again. Why they couldn’t tell me this via email I couldn’t understand.

I ended up resending the email with the attachment time and time again with a smaller and smaller file size. Something is wrong with the Topps Support email because they should be able to get the tiny attachments that I was sending. Each time, the only response that I would get was if I Tweeted @toppssupport about the issue. Again, no clue why the email account isn’t being staffed properly. After months of back and forth (or more like back, pester Topps and then reluctant forth), I finally emailed them again with a link to the images hosted on Google. I got an email telling me that I had to send them the UPCs, receipt, etc in order to get my missing hit. That just goes to show that the people manning the Topps Support email really aren’t reading the messages that come in.

I finally got my image in the hands of Topps and waited a little while. The other day this card came in the mail:


At first glance, this looks like a great card to get from Topps. It’s a dual relic numbered to 50 copies with the real NL MVP on it. It’s only upon further inspection that things get a little shady. First off, there’s the fact that the Kemp jersey swatch has a pull and is unraveling. Second, the bottom right corner is smashed and feathered. Honestly, this looks like a card that someone else sent back for replacement that they then sent to me. Thanks, but no thanks Topps. I can’t even be bothered to contact them again about this. My time is more valuable to me. I see what awesome customer service looks like on a daily basis. If this is what Topps currently thinks of it’s customers then I’m not sure if I want to continue to be one.

Monday, February 13, 2012

This Post is Sketchy

SketchesA while back, I ordered a bunch of boxes from BlowoutCards that contained sketch cards. Sketch cards can be hit or miss. You can luck out and pull something by Katie Cook who both is an amazing artist and has cards that sell for a ton of money or you can pull cards that just aren’t your cup of tea. This post runs the gamut.

The first card comes from Rittenhouse’s Heroes and Villains release. I’m not sure if the card actually pictures a hero and villain though. The second Ant-Man, Scott Lang, is the father of Stature, Cassie Lang, also pictured on the card. Scott Lang started as a villain and actually stole the Ant-Man suit from Hank Pym to save his daughter’s life. After that first appearance, he spent the rest of his life as a hero.

To be fair, these boxes only state that it contains a dual character sketch card and this card is exactly that. Nit-picking aside, this is a great card. I’m a fan of Young Avengers so it’s nice seeing Stature on a sketch card. I’m also a fan of the style of art here. This sketch card will definitely be staying in my collection.

Next up is a Black Panther sketch card from Rittenhouse’s Marvel Dangerous Divas set. This is T’Challa’s sister Shuri pictured on the card. Shuri currently has the title of Black Panther and the inherent abilities that come with it. T’Challa has new mythical abilities and was spending some time in Hell’s Kitchen while Daredevil was away.

I’m a big fan of this sketch as well, but it does have on soft corner. I contacted Rittenhouse about a replacement and they were very helpful. They didn’t have any other sketch cards from this artist to use as a replacement so I decided to hold onto it. If I’m not looking to sell it then condition isn’t as big of a concern. There’s some amazing art on this card though.

The Shrek card came from a cheap box and it’s a decent enough sketch. The last sketch makes me happy that Inkworks is out of business though. I feel like I’m the butt of a joke. Inkworks made the mistake of inserting individual pieces of a sketch puzzle into different packs. I guess I should be happy that I didn’t get the boring card featuring the feet. Rittenhouse does things the right way by putting complete sketch puzzles into one pack creating “hot boxes.” That’s the right way to do things.

Thanks for indulging me this brief foray into the non-sports world. We now return you to your (ir)regularly (un)scheduled sports content.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

This I Might Chase…on eBay

There hasn’t been a lot that’s come out of the land of Panini lately that has interested me. That’s pretty disappointing considering that I’m a huge basketball fan and loved the retro stuff that was coming from Topps. This card in the Beckett preview of 2011 Preferred caught my attention though. I’m not stupid enough to buy one of the $200 packs of this stuff especially since I’m pretty sure that this Howell card will go for less than $50 even though it will be limited to 99 or fewer copies. This card would make an awesome addition to my Celtics retired number autograph collection.

Speaking of Panini, it dawned on me today why I can’t stomach any of their products. Without hobby heavyweights Michael Jordan and LeBron James in their products, it’s rare that you can pull a card that isn’t a low serial numbered parallel that’s worth a lot of money. Check out Totally Certified, one of the hottest products in the hobby right now. What are people chasing? Is it a hot rookie auto? No. Is it a hot veteran auto? No. Is it a cool insert set? No. People are chasing the green parallels which are numbered to 5 copies. That’s what Panini is all about. There aren’t many cards with real value in their products. It’s all manufactured value that comes from slapping a low print run on a different colored version of a card that exists in 5 other versions. Yawn.

To all of the baseball card collectors out there complaining about Topps’ exclusive license and hoping that Panini gets a baseball license I say, be careful what you wish for because you just may get it.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Battle of Who Can Care Less

I think for the most part, collectors don’t have a problem with redemption cards. It’s all of the hoop jumping, delays and expirations that make collectors loathe those pack-inserted placeholders. My annoyances with Upper Deck and their handling of the expired Ken Griffey autograph redemption that I pulled were well documented on this blog. Now I have two more stories to add to the pile.

I recently posted the results of my 2011 Finest Baseball break. I did really well in the break, pulling one of the best cards possible, but it’s pretty crappy to have both of the hits in your box be redemption cards. I redeemed the Hosmer gold dual relic auto right when I got back from the show, knowing that it was a live card. It’s now two weeks later and I still don’t have the card. What’s worse, the card has had a tracking number listed on the Topps website for a week with no tracking information. That means the card, my card, is packed up and sitting somewhere in Topps instead of it being in the mail on its way to me. That makes me feel that Topps doesn’t really care. I asked support and they said that they send stuff out in batches. Are you kidding me? They should be shipping stuff out every day of the week. I paid for this card, it is my property and they should be rushing to do whatever they can to get the card to me. It’s not like it’s even an on-card auto. They just didn’t manufacture it in time for release.

That’s nothing compared to Panini though. You would think that Panini would be better since they have a fancy website where you enter your redemption codes, open claims for damaged cards and other correspondence with the company. The only problem is that no one seems to be checking the site any longer. I remember that you could select between two periods of time that you’d like to wait on your redemption before Panini contacts you about a replacement. I think they are 3 months and 6 months, but I can’t remember for sure. Either way, the amount of time that I waited was far longer than any of the choices given.

I would send messages periodically through the Panini website asking what my option were for a replacement, but I never got a reply. After a year of waiting for the Cheryl Miller autograph, I finally decided that it was time to get something else because there’s no way that this card is ever going to exist. I tried the website again, but no one got back to me. I called and left messages with their support department and no one ever got back to me. It wasn’t until I contacted Tracy Hackler on Twitter that someone from Panini finally contacted me and told me that they’d be sending me a replacement card (at a $25 value) along with some packs of Hall of Fame Basketball.

It is now 3 weeks later and I haven’t seen a thing from Panini. You would think that after keeping me waiting for a year they would want to do something to make me happy as quickly as possible. That doesn’t seem to be the case though. At this point, I feel like they should be sending me a case of Hall of Fame Basketball. The product was a huge flop anyway and there’s still a ton of it out there. They should have lessened the amount of autographs that were numbered 499 and above. That might have made this product a hit.

I won’t even get into the problems that occur when a replacement card doesn’t match the card it is replacing. I might have to go another round with Panini once my redemption card arrives. I had to do that with Upper Deck when they sent the first replacement for my Michael Johnson autographed card. In the end, I would up with an awesome Paul Pierce on-card auto, but I wonder why that wasn’t sent in the first place when I told them I was looking for a Celtics card as a replacement.

You’ve also got issues of availability. That’s especially evident with things like the Home Run Legends in 2012 Topps Baseball. There are many people who don’t have a card shop near them that they can get to in order to redeem the cards.

I’ve got to give Upper Deck some credit for their upcoming World of Sports release. Sure, it’s unlicensed. Yes, last year’s release was a flop. Yeah, this year is likely to be a flop as well. You know what though? There are absolutely no redemption cards in this set. That’s a good thing. When you can possibly pull players such as Michael Jordan, LeBron James and Tiger Woods isn’t that important? Having pulled a Michael Jordan autograph out of a pack, I can say without a doubt that it was 100 times more exciting to pull the actual card. Pulling a redemption card for the auto would have been a huge buzz kill.  I probably would have just sold the redemption card and never had the opportunity to hold a Michael Jordan autograph in my hand.

So, I think with some changes, the stigma around redemption cards could change. Card companies have done well in extending redemption expiration dates to around 5 years, but having them expire at all is never going to be ideal. Turnaround times need to be quicker. Communication needs to be better. Panini has made great strides with this and Topps followed suit for a little while, but their support on a whole has been really lacking lately.

Hopefully there will come a time when redemption cards are a thing of the past, but for now they’re one of the worst parts of the hobby.

“Will you ever rest…”